Coming Through Disaster: An update on Philippines relief

Photo courtesy of LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.
The scene of the disaster. (Photo courtesy of LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford.)

PHILIPPINES – On November 8, 2013, a devastating typhoon rocked the Philippines. Destruction was widespread throughout the country. More than 6,000 people were killed and 4 million people were displaced. Members of the Lutheran Church in the Philippines (LCP) did not escape unscathed. Three LCP churches were severely damaged—“one totally flattened,” noted the LCP’s President James Cerdeñola at the time—and countless people were left homeless, both members of the church and their neighbours.

Following the typhoon, the Lutheran Church in the Philippines reacted quickly, sending their emergency response teams to help those in some of the hardest hit areas. Relief focused on immediate needs—like food provision and temporary shelter—as well as long-term needs, like rebuilding homes and livelihood projects. And the work continues.

It’s work that has been noticed by people in wider society as well. “When I went to these areas and talked to the people—not only among our members but also the people in the community—they were saying so many good things,” President Cerdeñola explained, “things like: ‘When the Lutherans give, they give not only to their members but also to the people in the community.’”

“It gives us an opportunity to be known as a church—as a church that cares, a church that loves” President Cerdeñola continued. “And as those great gifts were given, the Word was preached.”

Left photo courtresy of Lutheran Church in the Philippines. Right photo courtesy of LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford..
Distributing goods and rebuilding homes. (Left photo courtesy of Lutheran Church in the Philippines. Right photo courtesy of LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford).

The LCP was aided in its relief work through the support of a number of International Lutheran Council churches. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) offered $100,000 USD in immediate aid, though its contributions have since risen to more than $528,400 USD in aid for the Philippines. That number includes grants the LCMS pledged to make to match donations from ILC members and other partner churches that were directed through LCMS World Relief. The American Association of Lutheran Churches, the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile, Japan Lutheran Church, the Silesian Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession, and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark all responded, and together raised more than $20,200 USD for relief work in the Philippines.

Because of legal restrictions in their countries, a number of other churches sent contributions directly to the Philippines. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of England raised more than $4,750 USD in relief, while the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany raised more than $130,300 USD in relief. In total, then, ILC members and partner churches have contributed more than $683,650 USD for relief work in the Philippines to date, in addition to the money and man-power the Lutheran Church in the Philippines has itself offered.

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ILC pledges Philippines relief

LCP President James Cerdeñola
LCP President James Cerdeñola

PHILIPPINES – As the Philippines struggles in the aftermath of a devastating typhoon, confessional Lutherans around the world are sending aid. More than 2,200 people have been confirmed dead, with thousands more injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. The destruction of homes and infrastructure is widespread. The Philippines’ government has said 11.3 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

In the face of this disaster, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) is calling on its member churches to respond with prayer and financial aid. ILC member church The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has already offered $100,000 for immediate typhoon relief, and has pledged an additional $50,000 to match donations by other ILC churches.

“As we see the devastation unfolding on our television screens, our hearts go out to the victims of the typhoon,” said Chairman Hans-Jörg Voigt of the International Lutheran Council. “President James Cerdeñola of The Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP) was with us in Germany when the disaster struck. I have prayed with him, and promised the ILC will do what it can to help the people of the Philippines.”

ILC churches are already collecting donations. The Japan Lutheran Church has promised 500,000 yen, and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK) reports it began collecting funds this past Sunday. ILC churches wishing to contribute to the fund are encouraged to contact the ILC’s Executive Secretary, Rev. Dr. Albert Collver at Albert.Collver@lcms.org. Individuals and congregations wishing to make donations should contact their church body for further information.

“As people forgiven by God, we are called to show the same love and mercy to others,” said Dr. Collver. “Helping the people of the Philippines now in their time of need is a tangible way we can share with them the love of God in Christ.”

Funds collected by the ILC will be directed to The Lutheran Church of the Philippines. Communications with the Philippines are still spotty, but the LCP’s President Cerdeñola was by Sunday able to determine the following: “We have three congregations in the areas worst hit by the storm,” he reported. “One is in Mahayag, Albuera, Leyte (a coastal town), and the pastor, Rev. Xavier James Palattao, told me that almost all houses in his area including those of our members are either totally destroyed or significantly damaged by Yolanda’s winds. The church building and the parsonage were not spared.”

In a later report, President Cerdeñola noted that the LCP’s three churches in the area “are gone—one, totally flattened.” Despite the devastation, he reports the good news that “many of our members—almost all of them actually—are safe,” though “their properties and means of living are gone.” The LCP’s own disaster response team is already hard at work, but the full extent of damages and loss of life is not yet known. An LCMS World Relief team is set to leave for the Philippines on Friday.

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Mathew Block